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A Welsh man who shipped himself home from Australia wants to find the two Irish men who helped him


Tima Miroshnichenko

A Welsh man who shipped himself home from Australia wants to find the two Irish men who helped him

Brian Robson was just 19 when he mailed himself home from Australia with the help of two Irish men in 1965, and now he’s looking to get in touch with them.

It seems like one of those stories that couldn’t possibly be true, but it is — in 1965 a homesick Welsh teenager couldn’t afford a ticket home, so he thought of a cheaper alternative — mailing himself there in a large crate.

The then 19-year-old required help, needing someone to nail him into the crate, and recruited two Irish men who worked with him at Victorian Railways. He hasn’t spoken to them since, and would like to get in touch.

Brian Robson had emigrated to Australia to work for Victorian Railways on an assisted immigration programme, but was intensely homesick, and after 11 months, decided he couldn’t stick it any longer. Under the scheme, it would have cost him around £700 to return home, but he made just £40 a month. 

He came up with the idea to post himself home, but needed help, and so enlisted the two Irish men, who he thinks were called Paul and John. “I couldn’t even tell you their surnames it’s such a long time ago,” he told The Irish Times, “and I’d only recognise them if I saw photographs of them that were taken at that time. We got on famously…They used to come to my bedsit, or I would go to see them, almost on a daily basis.”

They filled the crate with pillows, and he brought along a torch, a book of Beatles songs, and his suitcase, so it was a tight fit. The Melbourne to London journey was supposed to take 36 hours, but this didn’t go to plan. 

The London flight was full, so Brian’s crate was put instead on a Pan Am flight to LA. Despite several “This way up” signs, he was also stored upside down, and he found it difficult to breathe. He was discovered four days later in America while his crate was in a freight shed, and the FBI were brought in as he was suspected of being a spy.

After he was cleared, he was flown back to London (first class, this time) by Pan Am. Although he wrote to the two Irish men, he never received a response from them, and so is now appealing to anyone who might know them to get in touch. 

Now aged 75, Brian’s story will be fully told in a book, The Crate Escape, which was published in April 2021.

He told the BBC that he knows the pair went to school together in Ireland, but he can’t remember where in the country they came from.

Anyone who might know Paul and John, or their relatives, can contact Brian Robson at [email protected]